April Movie Releases

Well hello there!

It’s April, and to some studios, it’s the unofficial start of the Summer Movie Season. That said, this year could really take the cake, as Marvel pulled the unthinkable coup of moving their biggest films, and one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the year to this month. Let’s take a look shall we?

 

6th

Limited Release: Pandas

In the mountains of Sichuan, China, a researcher forms a bond with Qian Qian, a panda who is about to experience nature for the first time.

 

Limited Release: You Were Never Really Here

Based off the book by Jonathan Ames, and written and directed by Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), a traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe’s nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening. The film also stars Alex Manette, John Doman, Ekaterina Samsonov and Judith Roberts.

 

The Miracle Season

After the tragic death of star-volleyball player Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh), a team of dispirited high school girls must band together under the guidance of their tough-love coach in hopes of winning the state championship. The movie co-stars Erin Moriarty, Helen Hunt and William Hurt.

 

Chappaquiddick

Ted Kennedy’s (Jason Clarke) life and political career become derailed after he is involved in a fatal 1969 car accident that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). The trailers have been rather weird to me, and while it’s based on a real event, I’ve never actually heard about this. However, with a cast like this, it could be good. The film also stars Ed Helms, Clancy Brown, Jim Gaffigan, Olivia Thirlby and Bruce Dern.

 

Blockers

Three parents (Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena) try to stop their daughters from having sex on Prom night. I’m pretty sure the concept itself lends itself to being a little funny, and after seeing the trailer, I feel like that’s true to say. The movie does look like it’s going to go into the cringy and maybe raunchy area, but the sight of seeing John Cena playing against type will probably be fun. Blockers co-stars Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon and Colton Dunn.

 

A Quiet Place

Directed and co-written by John Krasinski, a family lives an isolated existence in utter silence, for feat of an unknown threat that follows and attack at any sound. Krasinski also stars along his real-life wife, Emily Blunt. The concept is awesome, and I can’t wait to see what Krasinski does with it. I mean, not only are we getting a brand new horror film, but a horror film where you can’t make a sound otherwise a monster – which we haven’t seen yet, which is great – will get you. Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe co-star as the children.

 

11th

Beirut

A U.S. diplomat (Jon Hamm) flees Lebanon in 1972 after a tragic incident at his home. Ten years later, he is called back to war-torn Beirut by a CIA operative (Rosamund Pike) to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind. Beirut co-stars Shea Whigham, Mark Pellegrino, Douglas Hope and Dean Norris.

 

13th

Borg vs. McEnroe

The story of the 1980s tennis rivalry between the placid Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and the volatile John McEnore (Shia LaBeouf). Borg vs. McEnroe co-stars Stellan Skarsgard, Tuva Novotny and Robert Emms.

 

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

The true story of the most decorated dog in American military history — Sgt. Stubby — and the enduring bonds he forged with his brothers-in-arms in the trenches of World War I. The voice cast includes Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Ezzell and Gerard Depardieu.

 

Truth or Dare

A harmless game of Truth or Dare among friends turns deadly when someone – or something – begins to punish those who tell a lie or refuse the dare. Let’s be honest, a movie about the game we played at parties when we were younger sounds dumb, but at this point, we shouldn’t probably doubt Blumhouse Productions at this point. They’ve already done Happy Death Day, which is basically Groundhog Day, but Truth or Dare looks rather odd. I don’t know if it’s the way they change the people’s faces when they are “controlled” or what, but I don’t know. Truth or Dare stars Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Nolan Gerard Funk, Sophia Ali, Aurora Perrineau, Morgan Lindholm and Sam Lerner.

 

Rampage

Based on the classic 1980s video game, Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) shares an unshakable bond with George, an intelligent silverback gorilla that’s been in his care since birth. When a rogue genetic experiment goes wrong, it causes George, a wolf and a reptile to grow to a monstrous size. As the mutated beasts embark on a path of destruction, Okoye teams up with discredited genetic engineer, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) and the military to secure an antidote and prevent a global catastrophe. I mean come on, it’s giant animals fighting each other with The Rock. Rampage co-stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, Jake Lacy, Jack Quaid, P.J. Byrne and Malin Akerman.

 

20th

Traffik

A couple off for a romantic weekend in the mountains are accosted by a bike gang. Alone in the mountains, Brea and John must defend themselves against the gang, who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets. Traffik stars Paula Patton, Omar Epps, Roselyn Sanchez, Laz Alonso, Dawn Olivieri, Luke Goss, Missi Pyle and William Fichtner.

 

I Feel Pretty

A woman (Amy Schumer) struggling with insecurity wakes from a fall believing she is the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. Her new confidence empowers her to live fearlessly, but what happens when she realizes her appearance never changed? I’m not the biggest fan of Amy Schumer, I’d probably even say I’m not, but I kind of enjoyed Trainwreck and Snatched, but those movies looked at least okay and funny. This does not. I Feel Pretty co-stars Michelle Williams, Busy Phillips, Aidy Bryant, Rory Scovel, Tom Hopper, Emily Ratajkowski and Naomi Campbell.

 

Super Troopers 2

A sequel that was funded by crowd-sourcing; when a border dispute arises between the U.S. and Canada, the Super Troopers are tasked with establishing a Highway Patrol station in the disputed area. I can’t honestly remember if I liked or enjoy the first movie – I haven’t seen it in a while – and the trailers haven’t really grabbed me in the way I think it should for a comedy sequel that fans have been dying to see. The original cast will return with Rob Lowe, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Tyler Labine also starring.

 

27th

Limited Release – Disobedience

Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, a woman returns to the community that shunned her for her attraction to a childhood friend. Once back, their passions reignite as they explore the boundaries of faith and sexuality. Disobedience is lead by Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams.

 

Avengers: Infinity War

The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe. Marvel pulled the ultimate surprising move by moving Infinity War a week earlier than original intended, much to fans praise. This also makes this first Summer Movie Season where a Marvel film won’t open in the last few years. Either way, we finally get the ten-years-in-the-making film early and I’m okay with that.

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‘The Fate of the Furious’ Review

Director: F. Gary Gray

Writer: Chris Morgan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Kristofer Hivju, Elsa Pataky, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren

Synopsis: When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trails that will test them as never before.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Eight films in sixteen years, and somehow the Fast & Furious franchise is still going on and has become stronger with every entry. The film franchise that started as a street-racing film have become heist films that focus on a family of misfits we all love. It’s fair to say the franchise really found its stride with Fast Five, becoming better as the franchise went on. So it’s a bit of a bummer to say that The Fate of the Furious is a step down for the franchise that has broken all the rules of gravity and has challenged us to suspense our disbelief to new levels. Not only that, this is the first film without Paul Walker after his tragic sudden passing during projection on Furious 7.

The Fate of the Furious opens in Cuba, where Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon, and in true Fast & Furious action, Dom gets himself into a race. Afterwards, Dom encounters a mysterious woman who knows who he is and all about the crew, Cipher (Charlize Theron). She tells Dom that he’s going to work for her, which of course Dom scoffs at, but shows him something that shakes Dom. We cut to Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who is recruited to get a team together to reacquire a dangerous device, which sets up Hobbs to recruit our team we all know; Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) – sans Brian and Mia. It’s there that Dom betrays the group and gets Hobbs captured and sent to a super max prison where Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is being held. What follows is the crew trying to figure out why Dom has betrayed them and is working with Cipher, and if Dom is even worth saving.

Of course, one of the biggest questions everyone will have is why has Dom betrayed his family, and thankfully long-time franchise writer Chris Morgan (since Tokyo Drift) doesn’t leave us wondering for too long. The reasoning does make sense too, it’s not some lackluster idea, especially if you’re a fan of the franchise. However, it does make you question what will happen now as the franchise moves forward. The other question is how is the film without Paul Walker’s Brian, and the answer is simple: it’s different. However, it doesn’t rely itself on always bringing up Brian either. He is brought up at one point that makes sense, but after that it’s all about the crew, as it should be.

When it comes to the cast, they all have played the characters enough times we know what to expect. Rodriguez’s Letty is the only one that hasn’t given up faith in Dom; Gibson’s Roman is the comic relief as always, although it felt his humor was heighten his time around; Ludacris’ Tej and Emmanuel’s Ramsay bring the technical aspect to everything; and Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is still an unstoppable, quick-witted, and cheesy line delivering machine who goes insult-to-insult with Statham’s Shaw. Speaking of Johnson and Statham, these two should are incredible together. It would be disappointing if they don’t do more movies together. Kurt Russell also pops in as Mr. Nobody again playing it cool like only he knows, and brings in Scott Eastwood’s character who, isn’t really all the great and sticks out like a sore thumb. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never Eastwood in anything, or if the character just wasn’t right for him, but I wasn’t digging his character.

When it comes to Charlize Theron’s Cipher – the first female villain of the series – her character is different than you would think. She has her own way at looking at the world, and in true Fast & Furious fashion, her character has a connection to the past films which is why she goes after Dom. I wouldn’t rank her character up there with Owen or Deckard Shaw, but what she’s able to do with a computer is rather frightening.

Going off that, this leads to one of the biggest, and franchise regular absurdity set-pieces, the “zombie” car scene in New York. The scene involves Cipher hacking every car with a computer in New York City so Dom can complete one of her missions. It’s a rather impressive scene, but goes with one of my major gripes with the film: the heavy use of CGI. The scene would have probably been very dangerous to have that many cars do what they do, although they did do some of it since they released a behind-the-scenes online. But, it was the obvious use of CGI which really takes you out of the scene, and it wasn’t the only scene to do it either. I’m not opposed to the use of CGI, and it’s not like the franchise hasn’t used it before, but at least the other films hid it a little better than Fate of the Furious. Not only that, it’s not even the best scene in the film. You can make the argument that the prison riot with Hobbs and Shaw is, as they fight their way out and show off Hobbs being, well, Hobbs.

All in all, The Fate of the Furious isn’t as great as the last three films. I don’t think the franchise has run out of fumes, I think it is trying to readjust after the death of Paul Walker, and trying to find its footing again. We can’t blame the franchise either, I’m pretty sure no one thought the Fast & Furious franchise would make it to eight films, but it has. The characters that we love are there, and the action is just as crazy as you would think with cheesy one-liners to back it up. Is the franchise going to lap out after this? No, probably not.

The Fate of the Furious

3.5 out of 5

April Movie Releases

Well hello there!

It’s April, and to some studios, it’s the unofficial start of the Summer Movie Season. Although, it doesn’t seem too much like the studios are pushing their huge films like previous years, but there are big films coming out before the end of the month. Let’s take a look shall we?

 

7th

Limited Release: Their Finest (Comedy Drama)

Based on the novel by Lissa Evans, a British film crew attempts to boost morale during World War II by making a propaganda film after the Blitzkrieg. The film has a pretty impressive cast that includes Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Billy Nighy, Jack Huston, Paul Ritter, Richard E. Grant, Jake Lacy, Eddie Marsan Helen McCrory, and Jeremy Irons.

 

Limited Release: Gifted (Drama)

Frank (Chris Evans), a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary (Mckenna Grace), is drawn into a custody battle with his mother (Lindsay Duncan). Directed by Marc Webb, the film looks like a great small film for everyone involved. Gifted also stars Jenny Slate, Joe Chrest, Julie Ann Emery, and Octavia Spencer.

 

Limited Release: The Void (Horror Thriller)

When police officer Carter (Aaron Poole) discovers a blood-soaked man limping down a deserted road, he rushed him to a local hospital with a barebones, night shift staff. As cloaked, cult-like figures surround the building, the patients and staff inside start to turn ravenously insane. Trying to protect the survivors, Carter leads them into the depths of the hospital where they discover a gateway to immense evil. The film has released some creepy looking trailers, and it looks like an old school horror film, so maybe it could be great. The film also stars Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Art Hindle, and Kenneth Welsh.

 

Limited Release: Colossal (Sci-Fi Comedy Drama)

This wacky sci-fi comedy written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) follows a woman (Anne Hathaway), who after being dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) returns home and finds out her breakdown has given her – somehow – control over a giant monster in South Korea. The film has been getting a lot of love on the film festival circuit, and with a great cast and a director I really like, I’m looking forward toward this. The film also stars Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson.

 

The Case for Christ (Drama – Pure Flix Entertainment, Triple Horse Studios)

Based on the book by Lee Strobel, and a true story of award-winning investigative journalist, and avowed atheist, applies his well-honed journalistic and legal skills to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife… and with unexpected, life-altering results. The film stars Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster and Frankie Faison.

 

Smurfs: The Lost Village (Animation – Sony Pictures Animation, Columbia Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures)

A reboot and fully animated film now follows Smurfette (Demi Lovato) who finds a mysterious map and set a journey along with her friends Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) through the Forbidden Forest leading to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history. Taking the film the fully animation route might be what the franchise needs after the poorly received CGI/live-action hybrid. The voice cast also includes Rainn Wilson as Gargamel and Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf.

 

Going in Style (Comedy – Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM)

A reboot of the 1979 film that follows three retirees, who live off social security checks, decide tey have had enough and plan a bank heist, problem is they are heavily under qualified. I’ve never seen the original, but with the cast, it could work. Going in Style stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Maria Dizzia, Ann-Margret, and Joey King.

 

14th

Limited Release: The Lost City of Z (Drama)

Based off the novel by David Grann, the film is a true-life drama centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who disappears searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s. The film looks very atmospheric and dark, and everything I’ve seen from the trailer has me really hyped up for this. The cast also includes Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, and Angus Macfadyen.

 

Spark (Animated – Open Road Films, Gulfstream Pictures, ToonBox Entertainment, Redrover Co.)

Spark (Jace Norman), a teenage monkey and his friends, Chunk (Rob deLeeuw) and Vix (Jessica Biel), are on a mission to regain Planet Bana – a kingdom overtaken by the evil overlord Zhong (A.C. Peterson). The rest of the voice cast includes Hilary Swank, Susan Sarandon, Athena Karkanis and Patrick Stewart.

 

The Fate of the Furious (Action Adventure – Universal Pictures, Original Film, One Race Films)

When a mysterious woman known as Cipher (Charlize Theron) makes Dom (Vin Diesel) turn on those closest to him, the team will go through trials that will test them like they never have before. Let’s be honest here, you can laugh at how ridiculous these films are and they aren’t like “they used to be.” But, these films make a crap ton of money, and people – like me – watch them because there dumb fun. The move intriguing thing is how the films will handle Paul Walker. The cast of Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Natalie Emmanuel, Lucas Black, Jason Statham and Kurt Russell return along with new names like Theron, Scott Eastwood, Kristofer Hivju, and Helen Mirren.

 

 

21st

Born in China (Family Adventure – Walt Disney Company, Disneynature, Chuan Films)

A wildlife drama documentary that follows the families of endangered animals in China.

 

Phoenix Forgotten (Sci-Fi Horror – Freestyle Releasing, Cinelou Releasing, Scott Free Productions)

20 years after three teenagers disappear in the wake of mysterious lights appearing above Phoenix, Arizona, unseen footage from that night has been discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition.

 

Unforgettable (Thriller – Warner Bros., DiNovi Pictures)

A woman sets out to make life hell for her ex-husband’s new life. Honestly, I feel like I’ve the film already based off the trailer, and I’ve never been the biggest Katherine Heigl fan, so I’m going pass. The film also stars Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, and Whitney Cummings.

 

The Promise (Drama – Open Road Films, Survival Pictures, Wonderful Films)

Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the film follows a love triangle between Mikael (Oscar Isaac), a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), and Chris (Christian Bale) – a renowned American journalist based in Paris. The trailer doesn’t really grab me as much as I thought it would, but I’m sure it will be good – hopefully. The film also stars Jean Reno, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rade Serbedzija, Angela Sarafyan and James Cromwell.

 

Free Fire (Action Crime Comedy – A24, Film4, Rook Films, Protagonist Pictures)

Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival. I didn’t know too much about this movie until I saw the trailer, and it instantly jumped to my must-watch list. The film looks like a crazy fun good time and it helps that it has an impressive cast too. The film stars Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley, Enzo Cilenti, Babou Ceesay, Noah Taylor, Jack Reynor and Sharlto Copley.

 

28th

How to be a Latin Lover (Comedy – Pantelion Films, 3Pas Studios)

Finding himself dumped after 25 years of marriage, Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) who made a career of seducing rich older women, must move in with his estranged sister (Salma Hayek), where he beings to learn the value of family. The film also stars Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Michael Cera, Raquel Welch, Omar Chaparro, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, and Rob Corddry.

 

Sleight (Sci-Fi Action Drama – WWE Studios, BH Tilt, Diablo Entertainment)

A young street magician is left to take care of his little sister after his mother’s passing and turns to drug dealing in the L.A. party scene to keep a roof over their heads. When he gets into trouble with is supplier, his sister is kidnapped and he is forced to rely on both his sleight of hand and brilliant mind to save her. The film stars Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Dule Hill, Storm Reid, Sasheer Zamata, and Brandon Johnson.

 

The Circle (Sci-Fi Thriller – EuropaCorp, IM Global, Likely Story, Playtone, Imagenation Abu Dhabi)

Based on Dave Eggers’ best-selling novel of the same name, the film follows Mae (Emma Watson), who lands a job at a powerful tech company called The Circle, where she becomes involved with a mysterious man. The film has Black Mirror-like vibe to it, and by the looks of it, always loveable Tom Hanks looks to play a villain-like character, who is the head of the company. The film also stars John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Ellen Wong, Nate Corddry, Poorna Jagannathan, Elvy Yost, Patton Oswalt and Bill Paxton.

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ Review

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Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Writers: Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Sope Dirisu, Sam Hazeldine, and Sam Claflin.

Synopsis: As a war between rival queen sisters Ravenna and Freya escalates, Eric and fellow warrior Sara, members of the Huntsman army raised to protect Freya, try to conceal their forbidden love as they combat Ravenna’s wicked intentions.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

When Snow White and the Huntsman came out back in 2012, the film was met with a mixed – a tad more negative – reaction. The film had some interesting things going for it and had compelling characters in Eric the Huntsman and Queen Ravenna. This is saying something, considering the main character in the film was, well, Snow White. So, Universal Pictures decided to take one of the most compelling characters in the original and give him an origin story, but also give Snow White and the Huntsman a sequel without really involving the character of Snow White. Does it work? Sort of.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War starts by showing us how Eric (Hemsworth) essentially became the Huntsman along with fellow warrior Sara (Chastain). The two were taken from their homes by Freya (Blunt), the sister of Ravenna (Theron), who after losing her baby unleashed a secret power within her that gives her the power of ice. Freya’s one rule for her Huntsmen is that love is forbidden. However, Eric and Sara fall in love. When Freya finds out she takes action, which goes into spoiler territory unless you absolutely remember everything in Snow White and the Huntsman.

Huntsman

The film then jumps forward seven years after those events, and now takes place after the events in Snow White and the Huntsman. Eric is now a trusted member of Snow White’s guard, although Snow White is not really in the film and is only seen from behind in a very quick seen. So when Prince William (Claflin) – in his only scene – comes to him to tell him Ravenna’s mirror has gone missing, Eric takes it upon himself, with two dwarfs in Nion (Frost) and Gryff (Brydon), to go find the mirror and take it to The Sanctuary (again, if you remember the first film, it’s the magical forest). Of course, Freya is not too far behind, and Sara joins the fight.

There are some things to really like about The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Like its predecessor, some of the visual effects are top notch and are pretty great to get into. Some of the characters are great like the new addition of Emily Blunt’s Freya, Jessica Chastain’s Sara, and the dwarfs of Rob Brydon’s Gryff, Sheridan Smith’s Mrs. Bromwyn, and the returning Nick Frost as Nion.

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Chris Hemsworth’s Eric the Huntsman has more time to breathe since he takes the lead role here. It is a bit hard to take Hemsworth’s performance as the Huntsman’s a bit seriously because sometimes I see him as a hammerless Thor, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s just the natural charm that he brings to his roles. Jessica Chastain, who is always reliable in anything she does and is reliable here too, but it takes just a tad bit of time to get use to the fact that she has an accent. The supporting cast of Frost,Brydon and Smith have unbelievable chemistry together and are one of the best parts of the film, and give some lightheartedness to the film.

Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron as the two queen sisters have some great scenes together. The problem is that they don’t get enough time together, despite what the trailers and promotional ads have you believe, and it is a shame really since they are two of the best actress working today. Also, for those hoping for a ton of screen time for Theron will be disappointed, as she disappears after the first ten minutes and doesn’t appear again until the final act. That being said, Emily Blunt holds down the fort for being the main queen, and is also a bit held back. Her story is a good one if the writers decided to delve more into it, but instead it is just left underdeveloped and underwhelming at the end of all of it.

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Moreover, like its predecessor, The Huntsman: Winter’s War doesn’t standout too much. The story will probably feel a bit formulaic to some, and it does slow down – with the expectation of an action sequence – right up until the end.  Also, the big thing really, The Huntsman: Winter’s War feels like it ignored some of the events in Snow White and the Huntsman, one big particular one that involves Eric’s past. It’s fine if they wanted to rewrite things or treat this like the first film never happened, but this particular piece was the driving force behind Eric in Snow White, that it doesn’t really make sense that the film would rewrite this.

All in all, The Huntsman: Winter’s War has a great cast and some pretty cool visual effects. However, Emily Blunt’s Queen Freya story feels underwritten and Charlize Theron doesn’t have a ton of screen time. Fans will find things to enjoy, but overall The Huntsman: Winter’s War may be the end of these characters. Which is a bit of a shame, because this series had huge potential.

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War

3.5 out of 5

‘The Jungle Book’ Review

jungle_book_ver6

Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: Justin Marks

Cast: Neel Sethi

Voice Cast: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Christopher Walken

Synopsis: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interest at heart.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I know I’ve watched the animated 1967 film, but I don’t actually remember too much from it. So going into The Jungle Book, I went in pretty fresh, not knowing a ton about the story and how things would work out. Thankfully, Jon Favreau and the special and visual effects team did a great job of bringing Rudyard Kipling’s characters to life in a remarkable and effective way.

Loosely based on multiple versions of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, The Jungle Book follows Mowgli (Sethi), a “man-cub” raised by wolves lead by Akela (Esposito), and his “mother” Raksha (Nyong’o). However, Mowgli’s presences upsets the tiger Shere Khan (Elba), and asks the animals who live in the jungle is Mowgli is still worth keeping around and reminds them that he will grow up and older and become they thing they fear the most. Mowgli, wanting nothing to happen to his pack, decides that it’s time to move on and is lead out of the jungle by his friend Bagheera (Kinglsey), but Khan sneaks attacks them and Mowgli runs deeper into the jungle.

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Along the way, Mowgli encounters different characters that’s he’s never met like the hypnotic snake Kaa (Johansson), the cunning and lovable bear Baloo (Murray), and gigantopithecus King Louie (Walken). His adventures lead Mowgli down a path to find out where he truly belongs, with man or the jungle, and face the dangerous Shere Khan.

Obviously, one of the big selling points for this iteration of The Jungle Book is the visual effects, and that’s not a bad thing. The visuals that director Jon Favreau was able to get out of everyone involved is phenomenal. The photorealistic approach to not just the environment, but the animals really brings you into the world that is being created. While some effects are blatantly visual effects, there are some moments that have you second-guessing. Yes, that’s how great the effects are, it makes you second guess. However, that might also be a problem because you’re wondering whether or not it’s real, partially real or full CG (no animals were used around Neel Sethi, but still).

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Besides the technical level success, The Jungle Book is also elevated by the great voice performances by the cast and newcomer Neel Sethi. Sethi is the only real non-CGI character in the film, and for his first movie, Sethi is able to handle himself pretty well, especially considering he was probably working off tennis balls or stand-ins, but even saying that, Sethi draws you in every important scene that he needs to. There are moments where he misses his mark, but not only is this his first movie, it’s also a movie where he is the only human character.

The voice casting is perfect of Shere Khan with Idris Elba. Elba already has the swagger and demeanor that demands respect, and every time Khan was onscreen you understood why the rest of the animals were afraid of him and Elba’s voice just makes it more powerful. Ben Kingsley’s black panther, Bagheera is the no nonsense teacher that tries to make sure Mowgli fits in with the pack and learns the ways of the jungle since he found him when he was a baby, and forget his “human tricks.” You can say that Bagheera is more of the father-figure to Mowgli, than Akela. Finally, Bill Murray seems like he was born to play Baloo. Murray injects The Jungle Book with his comedic and light-heartedness, and is so likeable you can’t help but laugh along with me.

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The rest of the voice cast like Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Mowgli’s wolf-mother has her real moment to shine when Mowgli decides to leave. Scarlett Johansson has a glorified cameo voice appearance as Kaa, in one of the darkest and creepiest scenes in the movie and Giancarlo Esposito’s Akela is, unfortunately, the loose-end of the voice cast, but that’s nothing against him, just the character not giving enough to do. Finally, Christopher Walken’s King Louie was mixed for me personally. In fact, his whole scene kind of takes the wind and good pace the film had and the middle of the sequence seems forced and out of place with the rest of film.

I’m also trying to imagine what the film looked like in 3D, but I assume it adds to the experience. I didn’t watch it in 3D, but just watching the film, I can only imagine they used the 3D pretty well with the environment they were given.

All in all, The Jungle Book is a great family film, despite some dark and maybe too intense scenes for kids, it also carries some messages that they can pick up on. However, the big positive out of the film is the amazing visuals, the great voice cast, and newcomer Neel Sethi.

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The Jungle Book

4 out of 5

‘Hardcore Henry’ Review

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Director: Ilya Naishuller

Writer: Ilya Naishuller (Additional writing by Will Stewart)

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovksy, Haley Bennett, Oleg Poddubnyy, Andrew Dementiev and Tim Roth

Synopsis: A first-person action film from the eyes of Henry, who’s resurrected from death with no memory. He must discover his identity and save his wife from a warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

A couple of years ago, the music video for Biting Elbows’ “Bad Motherfucker” came out and it made a lot buzz when it did. It was an impressive – and bloody – first-person perspective, or POV, action video shot on a GoPro by Ilya Naishuller, the frontman of the band. So, when Naishuller was asked about extending that idea to a feature-length film in the same format by producer – and star of the film – Sharlto Copley and producer Timur Bekmambetov, he accepted the challenge. What we get is a full-fledged, jam-packed action film that will satisfy any movie fan that wanted or thought it would be cool to see a movie shot like a first-person shooter game. Is Hardcore Henry for everyone? No, but if you want to try and watch something new, then give the film a chance.

Hardcore Henry, despite its experimental format, is rather simple in terms of storytelling. The film is told through the eyes of Henry, who wakes up in a lab by his wife Estelle (Bennett) who gives him a cybernetic arm, leg and eyes after a terrible accident – that is never actually revealed – and Henry is about to get a new life, since he memories have also been erased. That is until the process is interpreted by a telekinetic warlord named Akan (Kozlovsky), who wants Henry for something. Estelle manages to get Henry out of the lab, only for Estelle to get kidnapped by Akan and Henry having to go save her with the help of Jimmy (Copley), or should I say, Jimmy’s.

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Hardcore Henry doesn’t take itself too seriously, which works for film and was probably the best way to go. This kind of film lives off being ridiculous in the action, especially since the villain in the movie has telekinetic powers, Sharlto Copley plays wildly different characters all named Jimmy, the film is told in the POV format with a main character that does not talk, and it’s called Hardcore Henry.

On a technical level, Hardcore Henry is pretty successful. No matter how you feel about watching a whole movie told through the eyes of someone else, everything that happens onscreen is mind-blowingly great to see. The stunts and the set-pieces are all amazing to watch and I’m surprised that we didn’t read anyone getting seriously hurt or worse. So credit is due to the stunt team involved, and for Naishuller – in his directorial debut – for being able to pull everything off, because Hardcore Henry is filled with crazy stunts in every single action scene.

Not only that, but Naishuller making his first movie a movie that is filmed like a first-person shooter video game is pretty ballsy. Some parts even feel like a video game. None of the action sequences are the same, I mean sure there all pretty loud and have shaky camera work, but if you can make it past that, you’ll see how Naishuller tries his best to not make any of the action sequences the same. The action is pretty engaging and makes the film work even more. Again, if you’re not use to the format then Hardcore Henry is going to be pretty hard for you to watch. I’m a video gamer, so I’m use to the format, but even I felt a headache coming in near the end. The nice thing is that Naishuller takes into account the fact that not everyone is going to be ready for the POV style, and even slows the action down a bit, but when the action is on, the action is jam-packed and in your face (literally).

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The only real person that gets any real screen time is Sharlto Copley, who steals every scene he’s in with his different characters. I won’t get into how that works, and Copley brings something different to every character that makes him a standout in every possible way. Kozlovsky’s Akan is clearly enjoying himself as the villain, and even has a certain charm about him that make him a pretty good villain, but if he was given more screen time he could have been even greater. Of course the film is told through Henry’s eyes, so that cuts out that option. Haley Bennett’s Estelle doesn’t get enough screen time to really shine, but she is good in the limited screen time she has.

Now, Hardcore Henry isn’t a perfect film by any means. The ending falls a bit flat and doesn’t really carry the emotional punch it probably should considering what happens, but the whole film doesn’t really have anything else going on. It’s a simple “get back your girl and kill the bad guys” story, which is fine as long as there is compelling characters, and while Hardcore Henry has two major compelling actors, it doesn’t mean it’s all that great. I’m not bashing the film by any means. Like I said, Hardcore Henry on a technical and stunt level is fantastic, but when it comes to everything else, it’s just okay.

All in all, Hardcore Henry will probably spark the curiosity of other studios and directors to try, but for the movie itself it’s not that bad. Ilya Naishuller does a fantastic job bringing the scope of this film together. An easy standout is Sharlto Copley and the format itself is an interesting experiment that worked for the most part, but it won’t be for everyone.

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Hardcore Henry

3 out of 5

‘The Boss’ Review

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Director: Ben Falcone

Writer: Ben Falcone, Steve Mallory, Steve Mallory

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Ella Anderson, Tyler Labine, Peter Dinklage, Timothy Simons, and Kathy Bates

Synopsis: A titan of industry is sent to prison after she’s caught insider trading. When she emerges ready to rebrand herself as America’s latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Melissa McCarthy comedies are usually hit-or-miss, and if you’re a fan of McCarthy’s comedies then you’ll most likely enjoy The Boss. If you’re not a fan, then The Boss may not be for you. However, The Boss does have some really funny moments that should make anyone laugh. Unfortunately, the film could get lost in the shuffle of other recent R-rated films.

McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a hard-headed and blunt-talker business mogul who loses everything when she’s convicted of insider trading. When she gets out and realizes she had nothing she goes to her former assistant and single mother, Claire (Bell), for help. When there, she takes Claire’s daughter, Rachel (Anderson) to her Dandelions (a Girl Scouts like organization) meeting and see an opportunity to get back in the business world. The selling point is that Claire can bake amazing brownies. Michelle then takes it upon herself to convince Claire to start a business selling brownies.

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When The Boss works, it really works. McCarthy looks to be having a ton of fun playing the foul-mouthed former business titan that has a knack for wearing turtlenecks. They try to bring some levity to Michelle and try to get us deeper into what makes her character tick, but the idea is a bit underdeveloped and never fully fleshed out the way it probably should have been for it to work more than it did. However, the comedy does work because of McCarthy, her timing and delivery are perfect and how she was able to pull off some of those rifts were great to watch.

Saying that though, not all the comedy works. Like all comedies, not every joke is going to land and be funny. One of the things that The Boss does that hinder it – comedy wise – besides some jokes not landing, is that some of the running jokes overstay their welcome, and sometimes it’s only by a few seconds. It’s almost like director Ben Falcone told the cast to just keep going until he yelled cut. Unlike most rated-R comedies lately, The Boss never really crosses any lines and plays it safe, but isn’t really an insult or a negative toward the movie, some jokes are border-lined, but it never crosses the line like you think a movie like this would.

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The rest of the cast don’t really get a chance to shine, with the possible exception of Kristen Bell’s Claire. She gets the second most screen time and handles herself against McCarthy. Peter Dinklage plays Michelle’s former lover and turned rival Renault, who hams it up a bit with Timothy Simons’ Stephan as his assistant, Ella Anderson’s Rachel gets a one big moment to shine, but she comes in and out of the film and Tyler Labine’s Mike who has a thing for Claire shines the most at the end of the film. A standout, in terms of her short screen time is Eva Peterson’s Chrystal aka Giant. Criminally underused is Kathy Bates, who plays Michelle’s mentor in a cameo role really, but it would have been nice to see more of Bates, since they were able to get her in the film at all.

All in all, The Boss has some great comedy moments and Melissa McCarthy carries the film on her shoulders. While the movie may not be one of the best R-rated comedies out there, it’s certainly not the worst and if you give it the chance, you’ll be laughing with the rest of the crowd.

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The Boss

3.5 out of 5